Encouraged by my recent visit to Tyneham (a ghost town on the south coast of England last inhabited in the 1940s), this weekend I managed to track down another village in the south of England with a similar history.
Imber is situated on Salisbury Plains, near Warminster in Wiltshire. Like Tyneham, Imber was commandeered for ‘war work’ in 1943 and the villagers were given just seven weeks to vacate their homes.
Since they were tenants, residents were given no compensation for leaving and everyone assumed they would return after the war was over. Of course, they never did and the military retain control over what is left of Imber to this day, only rarely allowing public access.
Imber Bus Day
This Saturday was a special treat; although the roads into the village remained closed to cars, there were twenty or so old Routemaster London buses available to take any interested parties onto the village site. The event happens just once a year, normally on the weekend before the August Bank Holiday.
This is how I found myself standing in the rain outside Warminster station on a Saturday morning. For the princely sum of £10 you can board a bus and visit the village of Imber, plus an assortment of other local ‘attractions’, such as Brazen Bottom (the main attraction here seems to be the opportunity to giggle over an ever-so-slightly rude name).
Who goes to Imber Bus Day?
There were three different sorts of geeks who turned up for this day: firstly people who are really into buses, secondly people who are crazy about tanks and anything military and thirdly (and this is me) people who are into abandoned buildings.
Possibly the first two categories are better served here; there is very little left of the village and what is here has been declared unsafe and emblazoned with keep out signs (and just in case you are thinking of ignoring the signs there are police and security to encourage you to keep to the path).
There isn’t much left of the old Imber now; mostly it’s just the church.
Imber versus Tyneham
Both villages have a similar history, but if you want to pick one to visit then I’d go for Tyneham. Tyneham has been better restored, there is more information available and you can wander inside more of the buildings. Plus, they have the beach 🙂
The selling point for Imber, for me, was the opportunity to visit using public transport, but really you’re still better off driving if you have the chance.
The weather ruined the day to an extent. I do try not to let the rain curtail my plans; after all you wouldn’t survive long in the UK if you stay in and mope every time it rains. However it did feel hard work in the relentless rain. My idea of taking a picnic and spending the day there soon changed to tramping around the main sights and then get the train home.
I had booked to spend the Friday night in Frome, a short distance away, since the three-plus hours travel time each way is too much for me to do in a day. However my reservation got cancelled by the hotel just hours before I was due to arrive. There was literally nothing else available in Frome, or Warminster, or Westbury or anywhere else nearby, even by upping my budget, so I ended up in Bath.
Although accommodation is always at a premium in August, this year has been completely ridiculous with zero availability and what is out there exploitively expensive. Hoteliers are complaining because they don’t have international guests, but then they’re charging us twice the price anyway, so same-same. And people are paying it. I’m paying it. Because we’re all that desperate for a little bit of life after all the lockdowns.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed a day (and an overpriced night) in Bath, even if it wouldn’t have been my first choice.
August has felt endless. Much as I hate to be wishing my life away, I have been counting the days until September when the schools restart and (Continental) Europe cools down a bit and I can take a little jaunt overseas.
Warning! Rant Alert!
I am sick of being made to feel selfish because I need to travel overseas. Apparently, it’s ok to stand cheek to jowl in the pub a-hugging and a-kissing every time England score in the football, yet any of us (I say us although I haven’t left the country since last September) who travel abroad are labelled selfish.
I have tried to put a positive spin on this whole Covid travel restrictions thing; I really have. It has given me a chance to visit places in the UK that I wouldn’t otherwise have gone to.
Since restrictions eased I have done a Jurassic Coast road trip, another short road trip to Dungeness in Kent, a week on Loch Lomond in Scotland and three trips to London, plus this little mini-weekend.
I have had enough now. Prices are exploitative and everywhere is so damn crowded I feel like screaming. There is not enough space on this tiny little island for everyone to be taking their holidays on it.
***end of rant***
. To read about Tyneham ghost village press HERE.
If you have access to a car then the roads to Imber will be open August Bank Holiday weekend. Other than that you need to stalk the website to find out opening times. They are quite infrequent.